Effective Use of PPE

Employers should establish and maintain a suitable training program if eye and face protection is to be used at their workplace.

EACH year, thousands of people in the United States are blinded from work-related eye injuries that proper use of eye and face protection could prevent, OSHA says. The nation's workplace safety agency says eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in aggregate lost production time, medical expenses, and worker's compensation.

OSHA cautions employers not to rely on personal protective equipment alone to provide protection against hazards. PPE, the agency advises, must be used along with guards, engineering controls, and sound manufacturing practices.

General industry standards direct employers to ensure that every affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection where there are exposures to eye or face hazards caused by flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acid or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially harmful light radiation. Similarly, construction industry standards order employers to provide eye and face protection equipment to employees when machines or operations present potential eye and face injury from physical, chemical, or radiation agents. At 29 CFR 1910.132(f), employers are told they should establish and maintain a protection training program if eye and face protection is to be used at their workplace.

For a list of standards mandating use of eye and face protection, see the "OSHA Eye & Face Standards" checklist accompanying this article.

Among the resources OSHA readily makes available on this topic are:

  • OSHA Publication 3151 (1997), Assessing the Need for Personal Protective Equipment: A Guide for Small Business Employers
  • OSHA Publication 3077 (1998), Personal Protective Equipment, which includes Bureau of Labor Statistics reports involving eye injuries and a three-page section on selection, fit, inspection, and maintenance of eye and face protection.

Hard Hats Types, Classifications
Hard hats muts be provided and worn where an employer's job hazard analysis has identified that a danger of falling objects exists. Hard hats are more than mere protection against falling objects, however; OSHA cites "a real risk for lateral impact injuries" on construction sites. It cites other hazards, such as being hit by flying objects, on a typical construction site against which hard hats are effective.

Hard hats must meet the requirements of ANSI Z89.1-2003, the American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. It includes specifications for hard hats protecting from top-only impact (Type I) or from lateral impact (Type II). Both types are tested for impact attenuation and penetration resistance. Three classes set out in the standard indicate a hard hat's electrical insulation rating: Class G (general) helmets are tested at 2,200 volts, Class E (electrical) are tested to withstand 20,000 volts, and Class C (conductive) do not provide electrical protection.

OSHA Eye & Face Standards

General Industry

  • 1910.132, General Requirements. Personal Protective Equipment
  • 1910.133, Eye and Face Protection. Personal Protective Equipment
  • 1910.252(b)(2), General Requirements. Welding, Cutting, and Brazing
  • 1910 Subpart I Appendix B, Non-mandatory Compliance Guidelines for Hazard Assessment and Personal Protective Equipment Selection, Maritime
  • 1915.153, Eye and Face Protection. Personal Protective Equipment
  • 1918.101, Eye and Face protection. Longshoring


  • 1926.95, Criteria for Personal Protective Equipment. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment
  • 1926.102, Eye and Face Protection. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment

Head & Face Hazard Assessment

Employers are obligated to assess their workplaces to determine whether foreseeable hazards require the use of head, eye, or face protection. Examining injury logs and reports of near-miss incidents will be useful here, and make sure to discuss hazards and incidents with the affected workers themselves.

If hazards or the likelihood of hazards are found, the employer must select and have affected employees use properly fitted PPE that it suitable for protection from the hazards.

Other steps to be taken in conjunction with the hazard assessment are:

  • Have the employees been trained on PPE procedures--which protective equipment is necessary for a job task, when they need it, and how to properly adjust it?
  • Do they know how to inspect their PPE for damage or wear, and how to obtain replacement PPE when necessary?
  • Are protective goggles or faceshields provided and worn where there is a danger of flying particles or corrosive materials?
  • Are approved safety glasses required to be worn at all times in areas where there is a risk of eye injuries, such as punctures, abrasions, or burns?
  • Are hard hats inspected periodically for damage to the shell and suspension system?
  • Is mandatory use of PPE strictly and uniformly enforced?
  • Is all protective equipment maintained in a sanitary condition, inspected frequently, and ready for use?
  • Are eyewash facilities and an emergency drench shower within the work area where employees are exposed to injurious, corrosive materials?
  • Are adequate protective clothing and equipment provided and used when cleaning up spills of hazardous materials or liquids?
  • Are workers trained in first aid procedures as well as location of first aid supplies?
  • Are emergency notification numbers clearly posted and up to date for all employee areas?
  • Is each employee briefed on reporting accidents/injuries and the required paper work to be completed in a timely manner?
  • Are employees advised of the consequences of not following safety training and approved guidelines, and the steps involved toward termination?
  • Is annual training given as needed in those areas requiring it or as new hazards are introduced into the workplace?

This article originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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